Recently reviewing the stats for this blog, I was struck by the number of web surfers who found their way to it looking for information about the possibility of Hollywood making more Dirk Pitt movies, whether sequels to Sahara (2005), or a new, "rebooted" series which starts with a clean slate (to judge by the frequency with which search keywords like "dirk pitt movie 2" and "any more dirk pitt movies" turn up in the section titled "traffic sources"). This seems to be mainly because of my earlier post, "Returning to Sahara: The Dirk Pitt Novels on Screen."
That post considered the pitfalls involved in translating Clive Cussler's novel Sahara from the page to the screen, rather than any plans for more Dirk Pitt films, about which I have heard, seen or read absolutely nothing – which is exactly what I would expect. The fact that Sahara was a commercial disappointment ordinarily would not rule out the studios taking another shot. After all, Hollywood has proven nothing short of fanatical about trying to milk every established IP for every penny it can yield, and as fans can attest, the Dirk Pitt novels sure look like obvious source material for big-budget action-adventure films – especially as this franchise remains very much alive, new entries continuing to regularly appear on bestseller lists. Of course, as I pointed out in my previous post, adapting Pitt's adventures to the big screen is trickier than it looks, given how dated some of the plots have become (in light of changes in world politics, and industry sensibilities), but Hollywood has never been averse to seizing on a brand name and a few other select trappings (a character, a gimmick), and dispensing with everything else, and in the process launching a commercially viable film sequence, even as it leaves the purists unsatisfied. (They did it with James Bond, after all. And Jason Bourne. And Star Trek. And others far too numerous to list here.)
However, it is worth remembering that Sahara wasn't just a disappointment, but could be described without any hyperbole whatsoever as one of the biggest flops in movie history – and that this came on top of an earlier production of a Dirk Pitt film (1980's Raise the Titanic) which could be described in exactly the same terms. Indeed, one might say Cussler was lucky to see his series get a second chance, even if it took twenty-five years for this to happen. The way that extraordinary opportunity went has left the material seeming almost cursed – and silly as that may sound, one should not overestimate the rationality of this business. (In fact, when so much money is at stake, the factors to be weighed in the decisions regarding its use are so intangible, and every facet of commerce has come to be seeped in a casino mentality, one should bet on Hollywood's irrationality every time.) Perhaps even more frightening than any such curse, Cussler himself did not manage to have a good relationship with the producers, with the result a protracted, grinding legal battle in the aftermath of the film's financially ruinous shooting and release – and that is something that will frighten the least superstitious of Suits.
All that being the case, it may be a long time before anyone takes another crack at this series, if ever. However, for what it's worth, you can be sure that I will have something to say about any new developments in that story here.
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
My Posts on the Dirk Pitt Series
My Posts on James Bond
The Matarese Circle – Coming to a Theater Near You?
A History of the Spy Story, Part II: The Life of a Genre
A History of the Spy Story, Part I: The Birth of a Genre
Reflections on the Jason Bourne Series